Dead Island 2 brings the series' zombies and modded weapons to L.A.

It's a new open world with new survivors, but Dead Island 2 appears to retain several familiar ideas introduced by its predecessors.


The Dead Island series has been dormant for many years. A sequel has been teased for about half that hiatus and it looks like the time for its arrival is finally at hand. Shacknews recently had a chance to try out Dead Island 2 for the first time, taking our first tour of dystopian Hell-A. While the scenery is totally different, fans of the Dead Island series are going to see a lot that feels familiar in this zombie slasher title.

Dead Island's distinct style of zombie apocalypse has come to the Los Angeles area. The story opens with an introduction to the game's various playable survivors, all of whom are trying to sneak aboard a plane that's about to leave the zombie-infested area. Things go south quickly and the plane crashes, leaving any remaining survivors stranded in Los Angeles. The military quarantines the country and locks it off, leading to the main objective, which is to try and find a way out. While cities like Bel-Air aren't totally 1:1 accurate of their real life counterparts, their design has a sense of flavor that makes them interesting to explore, even if exploration means finding a zombie around nearly every corner.

Apex zombies in Dead Island 2

Source: Plaion

Players can select between one of several survivors. The choice is one that matters, because once a survivor is chosen, there's no switching at any point during the story. Each character has a different set of perks to go with various attributes.

  • Amy: Amy comes with maxed out agility stats, as well as the Relief Pitcher (regain Stamina after hitting a zombie with a weapon throw) and Divide and Conquer (gain a minor damage boost when attacking isolated zombies) skill cards.
  • Ryan: Ryan has maxed out Toughness stats, along with the Retaliation (moderate Force boost when using Block or Dodge) and Seesaw (regain Health for knocking down a zombie) skill cards.
  • Dani: Dani can string together attacks with her maxed out Stamina stats. She also has the Thunderstruck (Heavy Attacks trigger explosions on impact) and Bloodlust (regain Health when slaying multiple zombies quickly) skill cards.
  • Carla: Carla has a maxed out Resilience stat and also has the Mosh Pit (gain a minor damage boost when surrounded by zombies) and Dig Deep (get a moderate Toughness boost at critical health) skill cards.
  • Bruno: Bruno can exploit weaknesses with a maxed out Critical Damage stat and also has the Backstab (gain a moderate damage boost when attacking zombies from behind) and Rapid Reprisal (blocks and dodge offer boosted agility and Heavy Attack buffs) skill cards.
  • Jacob: Jacob gets a leg up with maxed out Peak Health stats. He also has the Feral (gain stackable damage boosts when attacking in quick succession) and Critical Gains (critical hits get a damage and stamina boost when overall stamina is low) skill cards.

Survivors should be chosen wisely, not just for the game's single-player component, but also for the sake of playing with friends. Characters who complement one another will lend themselves to better online co-op experiences, in which everyone can use their respective abilities and Skill Card layouts to their advantage.

Dani from Dead Island 2
Dani is among the playable survivors in Dead Island 2.
Source: Plaion

Customization is a key component to Dead Island 2. Specifically, the Skill Deck is a major addition to the series, allowing players to mix together different abilities. As mentioned, every character has a specific Survivor skill card with perks exclusive to them. However, players can also mix together Ability cards that are found over the course of the campaign. These cards can affect various combat abilities. New cards can be found and swapped out over time as players also unlock additional card slots.

With a favorite layout loaded up, it's time to start beating up zombies. Dead Island has always been about trying to dispatch the undead in more realistic fashion and this sequel is no different. Dead Island 2 offers a greater incentive to target different parts of zombies instead of swinging wildly. It's possible to incapacitate zombies by slicing off their arms or legs or going straight for a kill by aiming for the neck. Dead Island 2's physics system will often react accordingly and allow for a more systematic undead takedown. Strategies will have to change up for different zombie variants, specifically the new-to-the-series Apex zombies, which are much bigger and more durable enemies with more debilitating attacks. One thing we've noticed in regards to Dead Island 2 and its physics system is that busting zombies feels quite satisfying with body parts and bones crushing and bursting with a more realistic flair.

Grabbing a zombie by the throat in Dead Island 2
Have a modded weapon ready to deal with the undead in Dead Island 2.
Source: Plaion

Fortunately for players, one of Dead Island's most recognizable mechanics makes its return. Workbenches are back and open the door to modded weaponry. Why simply wield a machete or a pipe when it's possible to amplify them with fire or electricity? Finding enough materials in the world will allow players to customize various melee weapons with different elemental buffs or other stat perks. These can make plowing through single zombies a breeze and can be a major help when the undead start to appear in greater numbers. One thing to note is that another returning feature from previous Dead Island games is weapon durability. Weapons will often break at the worst times, so it would behoove the player to have multiple modded objects in their inventory. Fortunately, it's possible to repair all weapons at a workbench, so any resources that went into modding a blunt instrument will never feel wasted after it inevitably breaks.

Our experience with Dead Island 2 was a short one, but we got a good taste of what to expect. In addition to various story missions, players can assist with differnt side quests, which can involve scavenging abandoned areas or assisting NPCs by retrieving certain items. Zombie busting felt a little limited in our solo experience, but we're hopeful that things will pick up a little more when jumping into multiplayer. Regardless of whether you decide to dive in alone or with friends, the time for Dead Island 2's arrival is near. Look for it to release on PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation, and Xbox on April 21.

This preview is based on an early Epic Games Store build provided by the publisher.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 13, 2023 8:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Dead Island 2 brings the series' zombies and modded weapons to L.A.

    • reply
      March 13, 2023 8:44 AM

      I hope there is an option to disable or greatly increase weapon durability from the beginning of the game. I know many people love it but it takes away from enjoying a game. Especially how heavy handed the first game was with weapons at times breaking after two uses. I'm glad its more Bioshock levels that Elder Scrolls open world levels. My Dead Island playthrough was just me avoiding combat at all cost and only carrying multiples of one weapon because I never knew when one would break. Durability seemed to disappear at random rates. I was frustrated, stressed, and didn't enjoy it even though I really wanted to.

      • reply
        March 13, 2023 10:48 AM

        Admittedly it's been quite a while since I played the first two games, but I don't recall weapon breakage being a huge issue? Some were more durable than others, but a weapon breaking was never a surprise or a shock.

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          March 13, 2023 11:31 AM

          I think it was the same mechanic in Dying Light?...I don't exactly recall. I'm not a huge fan of weapon durability in video games..there has to be a better mechanic to get you to use new or different weapons. Durability triggers my good ol' ammo conservation problem where I save all the most powerful weapon ammo for "when I need it the most" and never ever end up using it the entire game.

          • reply
            March 13, 2023 11:37 AM


          • reply
            March 13, 2023 11:39 AM

            that was my main issue, not the weapon durability per se, but the max repairs that could be done.

          • reply
            March 13, 2023 12:13 PM

            I remember that the weapons had durability that wore out. I just don't remember it ever being a serious problem.

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          March 13, 2023 4:02 PM

          Nah you'd craft a weapon and use it for 15 minutes and it would be toast, have to repair. It was annoying and didn't really enhance anything

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      March 13, 2023 2:57 PM

      I'm kinda excited for the linear nature as I'm sick of open world games..this could be fun!!

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